Cultural Heritage Acquisition Policy (2008)


The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG) is the premier cultural collecting institution of Tasmania. In keeping with the traditional role of the museum as educator, the central responsibility of the non-indigenous area of the Cultural Heritage Division (here comprising History, also including Military and Applied Sciences, Maritime, Numismatics, Photography, Documents and Ephemera, and most recently Antarctic and Southern Ocean) is to illustrate and interpret the history of Tasmania through the acquisition and display of objects of outstanding significance. Indeed one of the major aims of TMAG is to build a complete collection of objects that represents the major periods and themes in Tasmanian and Antarctic history.

As TMAG is also the State Museum, it has a key responsibility to communicate the development of Tasmanian history to both the people of Tasmania and to both interstate and international visitors to the museum. Tasmania’s unique history is reflected in the objects that demonstrate the island’s story. These objects reflect local, national and international historical events and influences that reveal new meanings for Tasmanians, and become exciting discoveries for interstate and overseas visitors. Consequently a primary focus of the Cultural Heritage Department is the acquisition and display of Tasmanian historical objects of exceptional significance that tell the story of Tasmania and through this prism the wider national and global story.

The Cultural Heritage collection comprises of over 130,000 items. History & Maritime >20,000; Numismatics and Philatelics >31,000; Documents & Ephemera >20,000; Photographs >64,000. In 2008 the Antarctic and Southern Ocean program was added to Cultural Heritage. The Antarctica and Southern Ocean collections are maintained in their relevant area.

While recognising specialist interests and concerns, the multi-disciplinary nature of historical events enable TMAG curators in each area to work collaboratively to help build the best collection possible with the acquisition of objects of common interest.

SECTION 1: Cultural Heritage


The cultural heritage collections of the TMAG go back to the 1850s when items such as curios, foreign and ancient coins and medals, war souvenirs and vice-regal objects were accepted into the collection. No acquisition guidelines or rationale were in place. Material was accepted if it was considered interesting to display. This ad hoc method of adding history items to the collection continued well into the 1960s, the cultural heritage collections then being primarily under the supervision of the Art Department. The numismatics and applied science collections were administered by the science departments. Since the first Curator of History was appointed in 1973 various collection strategies have been developed. The majority of recent policies were written and/or reviewed in the 1990s.

Since the mid-1970s the cultural heritage collection has been developed as systematically as possible given various limitations, in particular resourcing. The emphasis has been on conserving a cross-section of material culture that conveys a certain objectivity about Tasmania’s social, economic and political development and will prove useful for display and study purposes now and in the future.

General Acquisition Policy


The principal aim of the Cultural Heritage Department Acquisitions Policy is to meet the vision and the objectives of the TMAG Business Plan. These are:

Vision:     To collect, conserve, research, interpret and display objects of historical, scientific or artistic interest.
Objectives: Provide present and future generations with the opportunity to gain information and insights into their world past and present.

Provide an environment that both stimulates and educates the general public.

Research, interpret and present its collections, and provide opportunity for public access and participation through diverse programs and publications.

The Cultural Heritage Department seeks to address the business plan through focussing on the acquisition of objects of outstanding Tasmanian significance for the State collection. In particular the Acquisitions Policy seeks to identify and acquire objects that fill gaps in the existing collection as identified in this document.

At the time of acquisition of a work, the costs associated with conservation and restoration preparation, presentation and storage should be estimated and taken into consideration. Information regarding the provenance and history of the work, materials and techniques should be sought and recorded.

Acquisitions Priorities (General):

The Museum’s relevance as a Tasmanian institution is paramount. As such, the primary focus of the Cultural Heritage Department’s collections will be Tasmania, the Southern Ocean and Antarctica. Items from outside these regions will be collected primarily when they inform a better understanding of the region’s history, for comparative research value, for interpretive purposes or when such objects have become part of the state’s history or culture.

More specifically the Department will seek to:

•    collect objects of exceptional Tasmanian historical significance,

•    build on current collection strengths,

•    fill gaps in themes, typologies and eras,

• encourage gifts of significant historic objects through the Cultural Gifts Program, donation and other forms of bequest, and

•    develop targeted forms of gift giving and benefaction.

Selection Criteria:

Other than in exceptional circumstances the following criteria will apply to the acquisition of objects:

•    Objects may be acquired by donation, collection, bequest, exchange or purchase;

• objects will only be accessioned into collections if accompanied by adequate provenance and contextual data, and

•    full title must accompany any object to be accessioned into the collections.


Significance criteria based on guidelines provided by the Collections Council of Australia will be used to inform the acquisitions process. Significance will be assessed against one of four primary criteria:

• Historic

• Aesthetic

• Research value

• Social or spiritual

• Scientific and Technological

Comparative criteria used to evaluate the degree of significance include:

• Provenance

• Representativeness

• Rarity

• Condition, including completeness, integrity and intactness

• Interpretive potential

A statement of significance will accompany any requests to the Museum Trustees for funding in support of new acquisitions.

What we do not collect:

The Cultural Heritage Department is committed to maintaining professional standards for all objects in its care within the framework of limited resources of space, staff, money and conservations skills available to the museum. This inevitably means that some objects may not be acquired at all because they are to large, complex or sensitive to be accommodated within the available resources. This may include objects with fabric dangerous to the health and wellbeing of staff and visitors.

The Cultural Heritage Department will not acquire any object illegally obtained, removed or imported and will endeavour to abide by the guidelines provided by the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property as well as those pertaining to CITES.

Other than in exceptional circumstances the Cultural Heritage Department will not collect objects that are core to the collection priorities of allied collecting institutions. It will liaise with such institutions to ensure that unnecessary duplication is avoided and will not act in competition with other institutions for the acquisition of objects.

The Cultural Heritage Department will not normally acquire objects where restriction by the donor or legal owner would prevent effective curation, documentation, research, normal exhibition use, loan or disposal in accordance with the museum’s policies. It will not normally accept objects on condition that they be placed on immediate, permanent or long-term exhibition. It will not normally accept objects on long-term loan.


For convenience, the TMAG Cultural Heritage Collection is divided into six main areas – History, Maritime, Photography, Documents (including ephemera) Antarctic and Southern Ocean, and Numismatics and Philatelics.

1 and 2. History (including Maritime)

Collection Profile:

The collection concentrates on Tasmanian history and has significant collections of maritime, convict and other colonial material.

Key Strengths:

Maritime collection (including whaling material, scrimshaw and models of 19th century sailing ships), the armed services collection (including uniforms, weapons and memorabilia relating to defending Tasmania and in the wars in which Tasmanians have been involved), the medical and pharmaceutical collections, the penal history collection (including convict clothing and items made, used or associated with convicts and the penal administration).

Secondary Strengths:

Commerce and stationery collection, domestic equipment, travel goods, childhood memorabilia including toys and games.

Objects in these areas are numerous but not systematic and need to be assessed to identify gaps and duplications.


As a State Museum collection, the history collection needs to broaden and develop to become relevant to the whole of Tasmania. A brief analysis of the collection reveals significant gaps requiring an active collecting program. These include material relating to important State industries such as forestry, mining and the Hydro, as well as Governmental activity, education, scientific research, migration and the environmental movement, all of which are poorly represented in the collection.

Collecting policy:

The collection policy is designed to ensure that the Museum holds the definitive collection of objects of significance to Tasmania and Tasmanians. To this end the museum will collect:

significant objects relating to events of historical, cultural, social, political and economic significance to Tasmania,
significant objects that will directly complement and add value to existing collections held by the museum across all disciplines,
•     iconic objects of high importance to Tasmania,
•     objects that fill gaps in holdings identified as important to the State Collection, and
objects relating to major Tasmanian organizations (eg political parties, social organizations, companies).

The Museum will not normally collect objects that are not directly relevant to Tasmania, Tasmanian life and culture.

3. Photography

Collection Profile:

The photograph collection provides an important source of visual information on the culture and social history of Tasmania and covers the period from 1848 onwards. includes significant and fine material including items regarded as national ‘icons’. It holds well over 64,000 registered items in various forms including glass based, film based, photographic prints, albums, images cased, mounted and framed reflecting the changes in industry, social history, environment and culture of the State of Tasmania. It also collects the TMAG archival photographs.

Key strengths:

Nineteenth and early twentieth century photography including daguerreotypes, sennotypes, ambrotypes, wet plate glass negatives and various types of paper prints and albums, the Ray Barnes collection of photographic images in a variety of formats dating from 1848 to 1960, military photographs, portrait collections of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries including portraits of the Tasmanian Aborigines, convicts and notable Tasmanians, photographs of Tasmania and Tasmanians at work and play in primary and secondary industry, commerce, sport, trades, environment, migration, and every day life reflecting the social history and culture of this state, photographs of Tasmania’s wilderness areas dating from 1863, maritime images dating from 19th century to the present.

Secondary strengths:

Postal service, primary and secondary industry, commerce, trades, geology and zoology.


Photographic material from the 1950s to present and material relating to the history of the TMAG and its operations prior to 1970s.
Collecting policy:

To collect and preserve Tasmanian provenanced photographic images (of all formats including digital) of historical, social, political economic and cultural importance to Tasmania

•     To collect material which illustrates historic themes, social movements, significant events, Tasmanian lifestyle and culture, environmental change, the defences of Tasmania or Tasmanians contributing to the defence of Australia,

•   To collect material documenting the work of significant Tasmanian photographers,

•     To collect material demonstrating changes in photographic technology,

To collect any material of significance to the Tasmanian context not referred to above, and

•    To collect material documenting all TMAG activities. This includes photographs of objects, exhibitions, events and staff as a permanent archive.

4. Antarctic and Southern Ocean

Collection Profile:

The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery will develop the State collection of both cultural and natural heritage objects and specimens that are representative of the Southern Ocean, Sub Antarctic and Antarctic region. (this particular policy relates only to material covered by Cultural Heritage)

Key strengths:

Material relating to more recent Antarctic government activity c 1980’s-2005, particularly in changes of Antarctic clothing.

There are some iconic objects that represent early exploration but not enough to sustain the changing exhibition program.

Material related to early whaling activities in the Southern Ocean.

Secondary strengths:

Video recordings of expeditioners. These need to be built upon over time.


As a new collection there are obvious gaps particularly of the early exploration period and early ANARE days. There is limited material representing the subantarctic islands and items that demonstrate and represent current scientific developments and trends in Antarctic research. The collection mainly focuses on government involvement in the Antarctic and little on private expeditions.

Collecting policy:

• To collect significant objects relating to events of historical, cultural, social, political and economic significance to Tasmania, and Antarctica and the Southern Ocean

• To collect material that relates to the exploration, discovery and occupation relating to Antarctica , Subantarctic islands and Southern Ocean

• To collect items that relate to the recent ANARE and AAD occupation of the region

•    To collect material that demonstrates a link between Tasmania and the region.

5. Documents & Ephemera

Collection Profile:

The collection was originally conceived as acquiring material to lend support to exhibitions and exhibition development, and this objective remains as a key focus for this collection. This area became a collecting area in its own right during the 1990s and has had some important collections added to it, largely through donations but also through purchase. This collection compliments the Archives Office of Tasmania, the State Library of Tasmania and the National Archives of Australia collections and future acquisitions will avoid overlap with these other collecting institutions.

Key strengths:

Mary Walsh convict letter, Police Magistrates records, Henry Hunter architectural drawings, Lamprell collection of antique maps, Robert Sticht collection, Marie Bjelke-Peterson collection, Echlin autograph collection, New Testament Bible given to Henrietta Bowen by Rev R. Knopwood, Hobart Regatta program collection, H.E. Baily collection of diaries and papers.

Secondary strengths:

Family papers, convict material, Hobart City Council collection of plans (on permanent loan), bound volumes of the Hobart Mercury, Antarctic material, Museum archives, Royal Society material.


The collection has insufficient documentation of activities related to the museum and large gaps in support of Museum collections.

Collecting policy:

•  To collect printed and written material on paper relating to events of historical, cultural, social, political and economic importance to Tasmania,

To collect relevant material that will directly complement and add value to existing collections held by the museum across all disciplines,

To collect iconic documents of high importance to Tasmania,

To collect printed documents and ephemera related to all museum activities. This includes publications, catalogues, brochures, invitations, papers presented by curators at conferences, workshops, etc., newspaper and magazine articles written by staff or about museum exhibitions, research and activities, papers written by staff for journals,

•     To collect electronic material related to all museum activities,

To collect archival material relating to the museum, including correspondence, object registers, Trustees minutes books, etc,

•   To collect material relating to major Tasmanian organizations (eg political parties, social organizations, companies).

The Museum will not normally collect material that is not directly relevant to Tasmania, Tasmanian life and culture or to the Antarctic and Southern Ocean.

6. Numismatics & Philatelics

Collection Profile:

The numismatic collection is an outstanding coin and medal collection dating to the mid-nineteenth century. The 1972 Talbot donation added superb examples of Greek, Roman, Indo-Scythian, Indian and English coins, making the collection one of international standing. The medal collection consists of commemorative, prize, award, and military campaign medals principally of Australia and Great Britain but also to a minor degree other world countries. The collection also contains various Orders of Knighthood, Australian & world banknotes, promissory notes, tokens and modern alternative forms of currency such as credit cards etc.

The philatelic collection consists of a specialist collection of Australian mint and used stamps and a general collection of used and mint stamps of world countries as well as first day covers, stamp packs, maxicards, postcards and Tasmanian postmarks.

Key strengths:

Greek and Roman coins, Indo-Scythian coins, Indian coins, English coins, Tasmanian tokens, medals and banknotes, Australian banknotes, coins and medals, World Medals

Secondary strengths:

World minor coins and banknotes


Australian Pre-Decimal coins. The Tasmanian medal collection is far from complete. Collecting areas should include industrial exhibition medals, sporting, cultural and commemorative medallions and medalets issued in Tasmanian or concerning Tasmania. Telephone cards, credit cards, plastic money, fun money, barter systems of currency.

Collecting policy:

The collection policy is designed to eventually ensure that the Museum holds the major definitive collection of Tasmanian numismatic and philatelic items. To this end the museum will collect:

•     items of significance to Tasmania, and Antarctica and the Southern Ocean,

•     significant items that will directly complement and add value to existing collections held by the museum across all disciplines,

•     iconic items of high importance to Tasmania,

•   items that fill gaps in holdings identified as important to the State Collection, and

items relating to major Tasmanian organizations (eg political parties, social organizations, companies).

Additional Information

Collections Council of Australia

Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property